Friday, November 30, 2007

When All Is Become Billboards

I’ve joked that my next project might be Olson’s Maximus Poems, if only because I would be able to summer in Cape Ann rather than northern Jersey. It is interesting that in today’s Gloucester—locus of Olson’s Maximus—most of the street signs are half-hand painted. Could it be that this folksy interpretation of common signage is a response to Olson’s :
But that which matters, that which insists, that which will last,
that! o my people, where shall you find it, how, where, where shall you listen
when all is become billboards, when, all, even silence, is spray-gunned?

when even our bird, my roofs,
cannot be heard

when even you, when sound itself is neoned in?
I picked up Maximus a couple weeks ago, and reread his piece on projective verse, since I’ve taken on a grad student who is working with both Williams and Olson. This student also has an uncannily similar Paterson blog, in which he and a collaborator have used the book as an occasion for new poems and songs. (note: I am not the professor on campus who “is constantly apologizing for Williams's inability to keep out of other women's beds” but I’d be interested to know who is; sounds like a stock character, though) More from them, soon. Nevertheless, Olson’s stuff is among the many poems and secondary materials I have been trundling through this fall, but have not had the opportunity to synthesize yet for the blog. For example, I reread Eliot’s The Wasteland because Cooper had a copy of the same edition I had in college, and the wee periwinkle paperback made me nostalgic, so I read it, and enjoyed it . . . which may complicate my previous positions, but nevertheless . . .

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

David Lyle, Blogger

Because the Beinecke Library at Yale took its Williams papers out of circulation with little notice this fall, I wasn’t able to take a look at the Lyle manuscripts there (in an earlier entry, I discussed them as an important hidden inspiration for Paterson). Nevertheless, Bob Perelman pointed out to me that in Mike Weaver’s William Carlos Williams: The American Background there is a useful approximation—a reorganization of the Lyle material by Williams, available here. Weaver gives us some more detailed facts about this Patersonian, which warrants a long quote:
Lyle had had ten years of Marconi in the Merchant Marine, the U.S. Navy, and the shore-based Radio Marine. He had come to Paterson in 1938 to work as an instrument-engineer at the Wright Aero Factory, to which the old city now looked for its industrial existence. From the time he left radio service in 1931 he had been seeking some kind of connection between abstract codes of communication like Morse and patterns of human behaviour; in short, the relation between mathematics and particulars. . . . [H]e has spent his life correlating the multiple networks of facts, events, and ideas, which have poured past his local vantage-point in New Jersey; first from East Twenty-fourth Street in Paterson not far from the Falls, then up in the ‘back country’ in Midvale about eighteen miles from the city. In 1944 he gave up his job at Wright Aero to devote himself fulltime to his method. Lyle’s hypothesis was that the world’s ills could be cured not by means of newly-created political theories but by the proper alignment of thought and fact at every level of knowledge, from concrete to the abstract . . . . These letters by means of which Lyle addressed simultaneously persons often unknown to each other and in widely divergent fields, consisted of correlations of their published writings with those of other writers. In short, he was not so much a writer as a re-writer. (122-23)

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Catch Up with the Impossible Object 2

Index update (6/19/06-11/06/07)

Video entries
Pat(t)erson: Two T’s or One? video only . . original entry
Loof for the Nul video only . . original entry
A Dissonance in the Valence of Uranium video only . . original entry
Paterson: When You Know! video only . . original entry
Outside Myself There is a World video only . . original entry
Mystery Mountain, Part One video only . . original entry
A Thousand Automatons video only . . original entry
Mystery Mountain, Part Two video only . . original entry
Make A Song Out of That: Concretely video only . . original entry
From a Roseate Past video only . . original entry
Mighty Alternative Media video only . . original entry
1896, Passaic Falls video only . . original entry
Thursday in Paterson video only . . original entry
Secret Shrine video only . . original entry
The Thing Itself! video only . . original entry

Audio entries
Radiophonic Paterson Mix #1 audio only . . original entry
Sam Patch! audio only . . original entry
Make A Song Out of That: Concretely audio (with video) . . original entry
Buried Heterogeneity: Lytle Shaw on Paterson original entry (with audio links)
What There Is: Amelia Arenas on Williams original entry (with audio links)
The Wonder Years: Carole Maso on Paterson original entry (with audio links)
Locust Song audio only . . original entry
Beyond the Symbol: Bob Perelman on Paterson original entry (with audio links)

Audio Discussions of Paterson in Paterson
Interpretation and commentary
“No Ideas but in Things” or “Under the Concrete, the Ocean”? original entry
White Flights original entry
Notes on the Paragram: Poetry and Comedy 1 original entry
Notes on the Paragram: Poetry and Comedy 2 original entry
Rigor of Beauty original entry
From One Old Coconut to Another original entry
I Never Told You To Read It original entry
Between Athens and the Amphioxus original entry
Bulkeley, Hunt, Williard, Hosmer, Meriam, Flint original entry
Morir Sonando original entry
The Reality! The Reality! original entry
Gould, Lyle, Nardi original entry
Things! original entry

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

With Trick and Money Damned

Pound’s and Williams’ interest in the ‘money question’ has a special relevance for the ‘modernist’ style of their poetry because it involved them in similar (though not identical) theoretical efforts to reconcile poetic and economic theory at the linguistic level and not just through criticism of capitalism or society. The money question prepared them to see money as another form of representation much like a limited form of language. If the solution to the economic crisis lay in the conundrum of money, it was therefore wrapped up with the problem of speech. The power of money was, in fact, money’s power to utter the otherwise inchoate wishes of social, political, and economic power that far exceeded the traditional poet’s linguistic and literary resources. (Marsh 5)
I need to pick up Alec Marsh’s Money and Modernity where I left off a couple weeks ago. I always enjoy reading things with a detailed sense of economic theory, if only because it pains me to hear vapid phrases from artists and pundits like “it’s a capitalist society” to justify any and all forms of asshole-ness. How it tires me! But listen, there are as many brands of capitalism as capitalism gives us potato chips, even though the kind of capitalism usually invoked by such phrases is just a hair's-breadth from rape and pillage. And hey, there’s also socialism, which still exists, or else the vaunted 9-11 firemen would not have made it to the towers without those trapped inside having to swipe their credit cards or revealing their mom’s maiden name to telephone operators in Bombay. But I digress. Marsh’s book arrays the two primal forms of American capitalism against each other. On the one hand, Jeffersonian notions of wealth, stemming from the beliefs of the French physiocrats, posit a kind of natural wealth (which, although premised on an agricultural society, are alien to notions of bean countin’); on the other, the Hamiltonian system—upon which the entire raison d’etre of Paterson, NJ rests—establishes money itself as the ultimate value (deracinated from land value in the form of exchange value). Marsh claims that Williams is more interested in Jefferson, but I think that there can’t but be a fascination with the kind of non-referentiality of value that the Hamiltonian city, like modernist poetry itself, encourages—even though it is roundly agreed that Paterson, NJ is the disastrous outcome of Hamiltonian planning (like the Cantos are of modernist poetry). Marsh goes as far to say that Williams and Pound write “Jeffersonian jeremiads and partly experimental structures through which Jeffersonianism can be renovated and modernity reshaped in such a way as to allow for a truly American independence” (14). I’m still not convinced, if only because even the idea of “two capitalisms” is in the end still reductive: the true versus the false; one close to the spirit, the other pure artifice; one for the poet, the other for the plutocrat. Williams’ relation to the real and to artifice and language is too complex to merely ally him with Thoreau who dreamt of having a Realometer at his disposal “that future ages might know how deep the freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time” (qtd in Marsh 17). Maybe I give Williams too much credit. credit. credit. After all he does twice make the analogy "money : joke" in contrast to some inalienable "radiant gist." So I will have to read on in Marsh. Indeed, the relationship between the coin of language in poetry and money itself is an intersection worthy of much discussion. If you look at some early language poetry, in fact, notice how the word “capital” comes up again and again. Is it an elaborate joke on referentiality (presuming that our ken encompasses its entire system in a single utterance) or is it a more earnest attempt to foreground questions of value at the frontiers language-making?

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Beyond the Symbol: Bob Perelman on Paterson

A couple weeks ago, I talked to Bob Perelman about Paterson, language poetry, and the "grade school pageant" aspect of Paterson's symbology. I thought that the author of the poem "China"--which Fredric Jameson posited as an exemplar of postmodernism, in league with the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and Body Heat--would have something to say about the referential gap between Paterson and Paterson. At the end, I ask Perelman to read some of his own "no ideas but in things" poems from his early collection The First World.
Approaching Paterson: (2 min. 32 sec.)
Paterson's mass of unarticulated sound: (3 min. 44 sec.)
The pitfalls of taking on the epic: (1 min. 33 sec.)
Perelman reads from Book I, part 3 and discusses: (10 min. 12 sec)
Perelman reads from his collection The First World: (3 min. 18 sec.)

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